Take note at how Gloria Arroyo, speaker of the House of Representatives, maneuvered on the controversial bill lowering the minimum age of criminal liability from age 15, which is in the existing law, to originally nine years old and finally 12.
In an interview that has elicited outrage from several sectors of society after the bill was passed on second reading, Arroyo said she supported the bill even when the minimum age was nine years old “Because the President wants it.”
To stress her supposed support for Duterte, she added, “From the beginning I said that my agenda is the President's agenda."
Arroyo’s putting the House subservient to Malacañang was criticized by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano who reminded the former president that “As a co-equal branch of the Executive Department, Congress is not the president’s rubber stamp. We must maintain our independence so we can protect the welfare of the people, especially the weak and underprivileged. And though we may be called the Lower House, we are certainly not moral pygmies, but rather principled giants in the fight for the rights of the powerless and the voiceless."
Alejano further said “Arroyo cannot escape her responsibility by placing all the blame on the President. As a representative of the people, she cannot possibly ignore the fact that whatever fate befalls this country and its people is a fate which she will be held accountable for.”
Arroyo delivered what Duterte wanted. That should earn her plus points with Duterte, whose favor she needs as he would still be the country’s chief executive in the next three years after Arroyo’s congressional term ends on June 30.
Yet, she didn’t want the stigma of that detestable measure, saying that as Speaker, her shepherding of the bills was limited to deadlines. “I don't dictate on substance," she said.
Her distancing act, however, didn’t make us forget how she used three boys, eight-year-old Jayson Vann Banogon, nine-year-old Erwin Dolera, and Jomer Pabalan in her laughable Bangkang Papel drama during her 2001 State of the Nation Address.
Also, she signed into law Republic Act No. 9344 in 2006 which states “Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility. - A child fifteen (15) years of age or under at the time of the commission of the offense shall be exempt from criminal liability. However, the child shall be subjected to an intervention program pursuant to Section 20 of this Act.”
Arroyo’s stand on issues depends on what serves her long term plan, which is still a big puzzle. After wresting the speakership from a close Duterte ally, Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, with a lot of help from presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, she had the House pass a Charter Change bill changing the form of government to a federal system.
She has close allies in strategic positions in the Duterte government. Three of them are National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, and Health Secretary Francisco Duque.
There are reports that she is interested in the position of finance secretary.
Last Friday, Arroyo was in Tondo distributing land titles to about 80 families. Why would a House Speaker distribute land titles?
While doing this, she declared, ““I repeat, I am not running for any post. My time is over, I’m just after winning your hearts so you’ll remember me even after I have stepped down.”
This is a good time to recall that on Dec 30, 2002, in front of the statue of Dr. Jose Rizal in Baguio City, Arroyo declared “I have decided not to run for President during the election of 2004.
Not only did she run in the 2004 elections. She cheated (remember Hello Garci?) to make sure she remained in Malacañang up to 2010.
(Editor's note: Ms. Ellen Tordesillas is a veteran journalist. She is president of VERA Files, verafiles.org, an independent media organization of veteran Filipino journalists who take a deeper look into current Philippine issues. She also writes for malaya.com.ph)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.